A Prague 6 court has decided to remand Jaroslav Starka, the owner of the Marila Pribram football club, in custody after he was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of connections to organised crime. On Wednesday, police charged Mr Starka with kidnapping and robbery. A series of high-profile arrests were conducted on Tuesday in connection with Mr Starka's case and the court in Prague is now to decide whether to remand five other suspects in custody.
The Czech prison authority says that it wants to increase the number of working prisoners by 15 percent by next June. The director of the prison authority, Ludek Kula, has told reporters 60 percent of all inmates should be employed. For example, they will not be allowed to refuse work for public institutions. An amendment to the penal code to that effect has been prepared by the Justice Ministry. According to a recent report by the Czech ombudsman, the main problems faced by Czech prisons are overcrowding and lack of staff.
A memorial plaque has been unveiled in Prague's Albertov street where the peaceful demonstration which kicked off the Velvet Revolution started 17 years ago, on November 17, 1989. The student march was organised in memory of Jan Opletal, a medical student killed by the Nazis in 1939. The march which turned into a protest demanding democratic reforms was stopped by riot police and many people were injured. The plaque revealed on Thursday bears the words "Who if not us, when if not now" - one of the slogans of the 1989 Velvet Revolution.
The Senate has approved an amendment to the law on the mitigation of some injustices caused to Holocaust victims. The amendment, approved last week by the lower house, abolishes the December 31 deadline for claims for the return of art objects confiscated from Jewish owners during WWII. The deadline for claims proved too short as not all potential claimants live in the Czech Republic and know about the possibility. The amendment has yet to be signed by the President.
A poll by the STEM agency suggests that 17 years after the fall of the communist regime, almost two thirds of Czechs believe that the current political system is better than the regime before November 1989. One fifth of the respondents said they believed the situation now was worse than before 1989 and 18 percent say they think both systems are the same.
The former deputy local development minister, Vera Jourova, has been released from custody. Ms Jourova has been charged with corruption in connection with a case of three former officials accused of having siphoned off tens of millions of Czech crowns of EU and state funds. The senior aide to two former Social Democrat prime ministers, Zdenek Dolezel, mayor of the town of Budisov Ladislav Peta, and Miloslav Rehulka, an Agriculture Ministry employee, remain in custody.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has said the Czech Republic wants a clear signal to be given at NATO's Riga summit later this month whether countries in the front line to join the military alliance will be offered membership soon. Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and the former Soviet republic of Georgia are in the waiting line to join NATO as part of its next enlargement. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on a recent visit to Prague that NATO countries should give a "positive signal" on further enlargement at the Riga summit on November 28 and 29.
A court in the northern town of Usti nad Labem has approved a proposal by the outgoing minority Civic Democrat government to seize the property of the multi-million crown Setuza food and chemicals conglomerate. Media reports say the government suspects that the recent sale of Setuza, with which the company rid itself of an almost 4 billion crown debt (around 178 million US dollars) to the state, in reality never took place. The government fears that Setuza is still controlled by its former owners, who are linked to a number of controversial businessmen, including Tomas Pitr who was found guilty of large-scale tax fraud.
A group of Roma rent defaulters have filed a criminal complaint against town councillors in the eastern Moravian town of Vsetin. The Romanies were recently evicted from their homes in Vsetin and re-housed in a complex of portacabins some 70 kilometres away. The case gained public attention when Vsetin mayor Jiri Cunek described the eviction as the "cleaning of an ulcer" in the town centre. Mr Cunek, who has in the meantime been elected senator, could face up to five charges - among them abuse of power, blackmail, and fraud.
Unconfirmed reports say that the leaders of the two strongest parties on the Czech political scene have already come to agreement over who will fill ministerial posts in a possible coalition government. The Social Democrats no longer object to Civic Democrat interior minister Ivan Langer keeping his post, while the Civic Democrats are reportedly willing to give up the post of Foreign Minister - currently held by Alexander Vondra - to former Social Democrat lower house speaker Lubomir Zaoralek.
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